What follows is a look of the successes and failures of the Buckeyes in the first matchup, as well as a look at how the teams have fared since the first meeting in Minneapolis.
What Went Right
Russell’s First Half
In a more extreme microcosm of his season as a whole, freshman guard D’Angelo Russell started out on fire before struggling in the second half. His 25 first-half points remain the most in a half by any Ohio State player this season. In helping Ohio State get out to a 41-29 halftime advantage, Russell made 10 of his first 12 shots and all five of his three-point attempts in the first half.
Amir And The Gang
Senior center Amir Williams played one of his better games this season, finishing with eight points on 3 of 4 shooting. More important, though, were his five blocked shots that were a part of an eight-block total from the Buckeyes (by comparison, the Gophers swatted just two shots).
Although Ohio State grabbed one fewer rebound than the Gophers, the Buckeye big men actually had a pretty good game down low. Ohio State scored 46 points in the paint and poured in 15 second-chance points compared to the Gophers’ six. Not only did the Buckeyes grab 12 offensive rebounds, but they also made enough of their extended possessions count to get out of The Barn with a win.
It was a game to remember for senior point guard Shannon Scott, who flirted with a triple double and ultimately finished with nine points, seven rebounds and 10 assists. The whole Ohio State team got in on the act, too, as the Buckeyes finished with 23 assists – the most they had in Big Ten play and the third-highest total of the entire season. In addition to Scott’s 10 assists, Russell dished out five and senior Sam Thompson had four.
What Went Wrong
Russell’s Second Half
Russell didn’t make a field goal in the second half and only took five shots total after halftime. His only two points after the break came on a pair of free throws with 1:13 left in overtime. If the Buckeyes are going to take down the Gophers again, they’ll need their best player to contribute for all 40 minutes.
In a game that needed overtime to be settled, the Buckeyes were only 6 of 12 from the charity stripe. Not only is that an unacceptable shooting percentage on an unguarded shot from 15 feet away, it’s also too few trips to the line against a team it was exploiting in the paint. Ohio State isn’t a good free-throw shooting team by any stretch of the imagination, but those totals are still far below the season averages of 19.6 free-throw attempts and a 67.3 percent success rate at the line.
OSU head coach Thad Matta isn’t exactly known for his deep rotations, but with the Big Ten Tournament requiring up to four games in four days, he’ll need to give his starters some rest against the worse teams. That didn’t happen the first time these two teams met. Scott played 44 minutes, Russell played 43 and Thompson played 40. Backups Kam Williams, Keita Bates-Diop and Anthony Lee combined for just 10 minutes on the floor. Those numbers will need to be different in Chicago.
Since They Last Met
Ohio State caught the Gophers smack dab in the middle of a five-game losing streak to open Big Ten play. Once they got on the board with a an 89-80 win against Rutgers on Jan. 17, the Gophers closed out conference play by winning six of its last 13 games – a much more palatable success rate than the .333 winning percentage posted in the regular season. Minnesota’s record is slightly deceiving, too. Of the 12 Big Ten losses, eight came by six or fewer points.
Since their win in Minneapolis, the Buckeyes have had their share of successes and failures. Seemingly every success at home (like the 24-point win against Maryland) has been undone by a road failure (like the seven-point loss at Michigan). The Big Ten Tournament won’t be played at Value City Arena, but it also won’t be a true road setting.